Frequency Therapeutics, Inc (Nasdaq: FREQ), a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on harnessing the body’s innate biology to repair or reverse damage caused by a broad range of degenerative diseases, announced the publication of its FX-322 Phase 1/2 study results in Otology & Neurotology. The data show hearing improvements in adults with acquired sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) and the “first known linkage of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics for a potential hearing restoration therapy,” according to Frequency.

Related article: Frequency Therapeutics Announces Clinical Data from Auditory Drug

Findings from the Phase 1/2 study of FX-322, the company’s lead product candidate to treat SNHL, showed statistically significant increases in word recognition (WR) and words-in-noise (WIN) scores, the company reports. Individuals with stable SNHL that received a single dose of FX-322 showed improvements in the number of words recognized in quiet from baseline to day 90 in the WR test (p=0.029) and the level of background noise in which words could be identified in the WIN test (p=0.012). There were no meaningful changes in the WR and WIN scores of the placebo group. FX-322 was also shown to be well tolerated. The publication includes data demonstrating consistent cochlear drug delivery in both preclinical and human studies. FX-322 is currently being evaluated in a larger Phase 2a study, with results anticipated later this quarter.

The study data will be presented at the international hearing research conference, the Association for Research in Otolaryngology 44th Annual MidWinter Meeting.

Healthy hearing is not just about the volume of sound, but about the broader ability to communicate. The most frequent complaint from patients with hearing loss is their inability to understand speech, which is due to a lack of clarity and loss of intelligibility where patients can’t recognize words and follow conversations, particularly in background noise,” said Christina Runge, PhD, a professor in the Department of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Director of the Koss Cochlear Implant Program, a member of the Company’s clinical advisory board and an author on the publication. “These Phase 1/2 data are the first to show a potential therapeutic solution to address intelligibility, a key unmet need for those with SNHL.”

SNHL accounts for more than 90% of all hearing loss and results from damage to auditory sensory hair cells due to chronic noise exposure, aging, certain viral infections, or from toxic medications. SNHL impacts more than 40 million people in the US and hundreds of millions of people globally.

“Having a treatment that regenerates sensory hair cells would have a profound impact on the field, providing physicians with a meaningful intervention for restoring hearing loss,” said Ravi N. Samy, MD, FACS, Professor of Otolaryngology & Neurosurgery and Chief of the Division of Otology/Neurotology at the University of Cincinnati /Cincinnati Children’s. “These exciting early clinical data begin to show the potential of a localized approach to repairing the cochlea, the ability to deliver a treatment to an area of the body that historically has been impossible to access and restore, and above all, clinically meaningful hearing improvements in patients.”

Hearing loss typically begins in higher frequencies and often impacts the ability to hear and distinguish between certain consonants, making it difficult to understand words, especially in noise. Hearing aids amplify sound but do not improve hearing clarity in higher frequencies or repair the underlying damage to the inner ear. FX-322, an injectable treatment candidate made up of two small molecules, is designed to activate progenitor cells (pre-programmed stem cells) to regenerate auditory hair cells in the cochlea and restore hearing function.

“These Phase 1/2 study data build upon the favorable word recognition performances that we previously reported, while bolstering the trends we saw in words-in-noise scores,” said Will McLean, PhD, Frequency’s Vice President of Biology and Regenerative Medicine, a company co-founder, and the lead author on the paper. “Increases in speech intelligibility and improvements when listening in noisy environments can have a significant impact on quality of life, and we are excited about the potential of our approach for patients and to advance the field of hearing restoration.”

FX-322 Development Program 

FX-322 is Frequency’s lead product candidate for the treatment of acquired SNHL. The Phase 1/2 study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, single-dose, multi-center study to assess the safety of FX-322 in 23 patients with stable SNHL. Patients received an intratympanic injection of FX-322 or placebo in one ear during an office-based procedure. In the study, 15 patients received a single dose of FX-322 in one ear while eight patients received placebo.

Of the six patients treated with FX-322 who had baseline word recognition in quiet scores of below 90%, four showed clinically meaningful improvements. Also, when assessed at the group level, patients treated with FX-322 outperformed the placebo group in word recognition in a quiet background when averaged across all time points.

The FX-322 Phase 2a study is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, single- and repeat-dose study in which the Company enrolled 95 patients aged 18 to 65 with mild to moderately severe SNHL. The study uses validated measures of hearing function including WR, WIN, and pure tone audiometry.

Tinnitus and quality-of-life measures will be evaluated using the Tinnitus Functional Index and the Hearing Handicap Inventory for Adults, respectively, and the study also includes testing of extended high frequencies (up to 16 kHz). The Phase 2a study has four dose cohorts, and hearing function will be regularly tested over the course of seven months following the first dosing.

The company is conducting Phase 1b clinical studies to evaluate the potential of FX-322 in additional patient groups, including patients with age-related hearing loss and with severe SNHL. The company is also conducting an open-label safety study looking at the administration conditions for FX-322.

Original Paper: McLean WJ, Hinton AS, Herby JTJ, et al. Improved speech intelligibility in subjects with stable sensorineural hearing loss following intratympanic dosing of FX-322 in a Phase 1b study. Otology & Neurotology. February 22, 2021. DOI: 10.1097/MAO.0000000000003120.

Source: Frequency Therapeutics, Otology & Neurotology